Our Work

Public procurement

Free Software is a perfect fit for the public sector. It is a public resource that government organisations can use, study, improve, and share with each other. For citizens, this means transparency, cost efficiency, and the freedom to interact with their government in the way that suits them best.

But not all government institutions are taking advantage of Free Software. In consequence, public funds are being wasted, and that programs that should be free are being locked away. This also makes life hard for the Free Software-based companies who employ people in Europe, and pay their taxes here.

FSFE explains the problem

Procurement is a field for specialists. Many procurement officials are still not fully aware of Free Software. Combined with intertia in public sector IT departments, this means that too many public bodies never look beyond their long-standing relations with suppliers of non-free software.

At FSFE, we work with journalists and researchers to highlight the work of public sector organisations that are doing it right. When a public body makes mistakes, we help them to correct them. And when necessary, we put pressure on organisations that insist on harmful ways of buying software.

Why procurement matters

Public procurement spending equals nearly 20% of the EU's GDP 1. The public sector's procurement choices have very real effects on the economy, and play a significant role in determining the sort of firms that thrive in the market. Even with current procurement practices, Free Software already delivers very significant benefits for the European economy. Daffara (2012) estimates that Europeans enjoy 114 billion EUR per year in direct cost savings thanks to Free Software2.Anecdotal evidence points in the same direction. Many public adminstrations that begin using Free Software see their IT costs drop by 50-90%.

The public sector's buying decisions also has a significant influence on the development of a healthy supplier ecosystem for Free Software products and services. With more government institutions as their customers, many such companies could thrive more quickly, and there would be more and better Free Software programs available to the public.

FSFE speaks up when things go wrong...

In 2010, the European Commission made a glaring mistake. The Commission had issued numerous policy statements in favour of Free Software and Open Standards. But when it came to buying software and services for itself, it went straight to Microsoft and its resellers. Companies offering Free Software never had a chance, even though their products offered the same functionality.

We saw that the Commission had certainly breached the spirit, if not the letter, of the law. So we took them to task, generating lots of press coverage - right up to the New York Times.

We want the European Commission to procure the software products it needs in an open, competitive fashion, giving Free Software suppliers the same opportunities as it gives to proprietary vendors and their resellers.

We want the EC to take a long-term view of its IT strategy, realise the dangers of lock-in, and figure future exit costs into the price of any solution it acquires.

This is what the Commission owes to Europe's citizens. Sticking to the letter and spirit of European procurement law would be an excellent start.

…and offers independent solutions

Fortunately, most people are more open to progress than that. We help procurement officials understand the full impact of their actions, and we help them to do better -- not only for their organisations, but also for the citizens whom they serve.

At FSFE, we are in constant dialogues with procurement specialists across Europe. We observe new approaches, identify what works, and provide analysis to decision makers. We help specialists in different countries learn from each other.

To speed up change at the ground level, we also work with national governments to help them draft policies that promote Free Software adoption. In January 2014, Italy introduced a rule requiring public bodies to first evaluate Free Software before buying non-free solutions. FSFE's General Counsel Carlo Piana was part of the expert committee installed by the government to design this rule, alongside participants from all sectors of the software market.

This is the sort of change that FSFE helps to create. Please support us in this effort.

Footnotes

  1. Open Forum Europe (2013): OFE Procurement Monitoring Report 2012 , 2nd Snapshot, p. 2
  2. Carlo Dafarra (2012): Estimating the Economic Contribution of Open Source Software to the European Economy. In: Shane Coughlan (ed.)(2012): The First OpenForum Academy Conference Proceedings, pp. 11-14

EC distorts market by refusing to break free from lock-in

08 July 2014:

The European Commission has recently renewed its commitment to a proprietary desktop and secret file formats.The Commission is refusing to get serious about breaking free from vendor lock-in, and is ignoring all available alternatives. In doing so, the EU's civil service fails to practice what it preaches.

Open Letter to EU institutions: Time to support Open Standards

26 March 2014:

In an open letter to the European Parliament and the European Commission, Free Software Foundation Europe and Open Forum Europe are asking the European institutions to improve their support for Open Standards. The letter is directed to Giancarlo Vilella, the president of the European Parliament's DG ITEC and chair of the Inter-Institutional Committee for Informatics.

FSFE comments on UK proposal on document formats

26 February 2014:

FSFE has submitted comments on a proposal by the UK government to use only document formats based on Open Standards in future.

L'Italia privilegia il Software Libero nel settore pubblico

14 January 2014:

Il governo italiano ha fatto del Software Libero l'opzione predefinita per le pubbliche amministrazioni. In un documento, pubblicato mercoledì scorso, l'Agenzia per l'Italia Digitale ha fissato regole in base alle quali tutte le organizzazioni governative del paese devono valutare l'utilizzo di Software Libero prima di acquistare licenze per programmi proprietari.

EC tells public bodies to break free from lock-in

25 June 2013:

In a Communication published today, the European Commission urges public bodies to break free from vendor lock-in in their IT systems. The Commission wants public bodies to rely on standards rather than brand names and proprietary technology when they buy software.

Open Letter to Prime Minister Erdoğan

20 June 2013:

Days before the protests in Taksim Square erupted, President Erdoğan was in America. On behalf of an ambitious education investment project called FATIH, he toured Silicon Valley as the guest of America's largest technology companies, each of whom are hoping to land a contract for more than 10 million new tablet computers.

Illegal procurement favouring Microsoft killed in Portuguese court

02 May 2013:

On April 27, the administrative court of Almada, Portugal, declared a 550, 000 Euro contract between Microsoft and the municipality of Almada to be illegal. The technical specifications of the competition launched by the municipality prevented any company other than Microsoft and their partners to submit a proposal.

La FSFE illustra alla Regione Lazio l'importanza del Software Libero per le pubbliche amministrazioni.

30 July 2012:

Lo scorso 23 Maggio, il Consiglio Regionale del Lazio ha approvato una Legge Regionale dal titolo “Disposizioni in materia di riutilizzo delle informazioni e dei dati pubblici e iniziative connesse". Con un successivo regolamento di attuazione, verranno individuate le modalità e le regole tecniche per il riuso dei programmi informatici. Nel frattempo, abbiamo loro proposto un elenco di motivazioni per cui sia le istituzioni che la comunità trarrebbero vantaggio da una migrazione a sistemi basati su Software Libero.

City of Helsinki Wants To Keep Software Costs Secret

11 July 2012:

The IT department of the city of Helsinki claimed in a report to the city board that migrating to OpenOffice would cost is over 21 million euros. On 10th of April 2012, FSFE filed a Freedom of Information request, asking the city how it had arrived at a surprisingly high cost estimates for running OpenOffice (now LibreOffice) on the city's workstations. The city of Helsinki has now denied this request and has stated that it will not release any details about the calculations.

FSFE to Advance Fair Public IT Procurements in Finland

19 June 2012:

The Free Software Foundation Europe (FSFE) has started an initiative to advance fair public procurements in Finland. The initiative concentrates on IT related procurement notices that require brand instead of defining functionalities required by the procurer. To date FSFE has skimmed over 300 procurement notices, and of those taken into closer analysis, 14 have been found to clearly violate the Finnish procurement law. These violating notices explicitly asked for tenders of specific brands of software manufacturers or products and thus discriminate all other brands and manufacturers, effectively stopping free competition.

Helsinki city officials highly satisfied with Free Software

13 December 2011:

City officials in Helsinki, Finland, are overwhelmingly satisfied after trying out the Free Software office suite OpenOffice.org on their laptops. 75% of 600 officials have been using OpenOffice.org exclusively since February, as part of a pilot project where the city installed the program on 22,500 workstations.

Contribute to list of Free Software options for UK government

18 May 2011:

We need your help to write a paper with details of recommended Free Software applications for use in the UK public sector. Please contribute your knowledge by joining us on Etherpad.

FSFE responds to EC consultation on procurement

18 April 2011:

Free Software Foundation Europe has provided the European Commission with input on modernising the way in which public bodies buy software and related services.

Mapping the changing landscape of Free Software in the British Public Sector

27 March 2011:

As Britain reverses its traditional role and moves to the fore of European public sector Free Software policy, FSFE explains the most important recent developments.